“A habit cannot be tossed out of the window; it must be coaxed down the stairs one step at a time.”
– Mark Twain
I have reflected often on this quote during my time here at HRC Recruitment. My role as an Associate Consultant within the Legal team was my first “real job” outside of the usual university part-time gigs. It was the first time I had a 9 to 5; an office to go to; a career to develop; colleagues to be accountable for.
So, it really got me thinking about habits (good and bad). How do we form them? How can we keep going? And how can we ditch the bad ones? When I had a part-time job at university, sometimes my shift didn’t start until 5pm. So, I had the whole day to myself to indulge in hobbies, see friends or hit the gym. How was I going to work all that in before 9am? Should I even attempt to do that?
It takes, on average, 66 days to form a habit. I have been working both in the office and at home. Was it possible to form two entirely different – yet consistent – routines?
Here are some of the pointers I have picked up along the way:
- Start small. Don’t commit to a marathon on day one, week one of your new routine. Small, achievable daily goals trigger that satisfaction part of your brain, encouraging you to do more.
- Don’t change everything at once. If you’ve never set foot in an office or a gym, don’t try to start doing both at once. Ease yourself in.
- Create a schedule. Either on your phone or on some paper, create a routine that you’d like to get into. Plan out your work time, gym time and factor in down time, too.
- Set a goal. Even if it’s something as small as “be early for work every day this week” or “hit the gym three times this week”. That goal / reward mechanism in our brains will be triggered by this.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. Sometimes, you will be unable to control factors around you. The train was cancelled; you forgot your gym clothes; you had to stay on at work. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss one day.
I know that I feel satisfied when I have completed all I set out to that week, and that I really value my free time more. I am able to work gym time in either before work or during lunchtime so that I can spend my evenings how I please.
Studies have shown that getting into good habits – whatever those look like to you – have long lasting impact on both our physical and mental wellbeing. Perhaps it’s that you no longer feel stressed from leaving everything to the last minute or that you feel healthier due to food or gym commitments. There’s a safety in the familiarity of routine that could also help you to navigate mental health issues.
I am still getting to grips with my habit forming – certainly, my desire to read more books isn’t quite at the place I’d like it to be yet – but sitting down and really thinking about how I can build up good habits has helped me find my footing in my first job. This was important to me as I wanted to make a first impression of someone who was reliable, disciplined and motivated.